By Paula Ebben, WBZ-TV

BOSTON (CBS) – 14-year-old Adam smith of Grafton loves playing online video games. “You can do a lot of stuff. You can run around and craft things. You can fight creatures,” he said. You can even chat with other players.

But Adam got to a point in one game where he wanted more. “Most videogames have a point beyond which you can’t go unless you buy a membership,” he said.

Usually buying a membership to any online site, gaming or otherwise, would require a credit card. For Adam, that would mean asking mom or dad. But this game had a way around that as Adam’s father discovered when he spotted a letter addressed to an internet company in his son’s room. “I shook the envelope and I felt a quarter,” Bradley Smith said.

WBZ TV’s Paula Ebben reports

Inside the envelope was a subscription order for the game along with $11.25 in cash. As it turns out, it was not just a foolish mistake on Adam’s part. The gaming site actually lists cash by mail as a payment option. It was an option that did not sit well with Adam’s dad. “Children, pre-teens and tweens who play these games are going to mail the $20 from grandma and parents won’t know. That’s my biggest concern,” he said.

“I think there is a lot that goes on with children’s gaming that parents aren’t aware of,” explained Dr. Susan Linn who is a child psychologist, author and director of the Campaign for a Commercial Free Childhood.

Linn believes many of these gaming sites go out of their way to keep parents out of the loop. “We have an industry spending billions of dollars to bypass parents and target children directly with messages that may or may not be good for them,” Linn said.

The game Adam wanted to subscribe to was fairly benign but there are dozens of other gaming sites with violent or sexually explicit material that allow cash payments.

The transactions are all handled through The site says the service is needed for the millions of Americans who do not have access to a credit card. As a marketing professional, Bradley smith believes there is more to it than that.

“It’s a business decision to solicit money from kids,” Smith said. “I think it’s too tempting for children. They can do this without talking to their parents.”

Sending cash in the mail is not illegal, but it’s not advisable. Even says it’s not responsible for money that gets lost along the way.

Comments (2)
  1. Frank Davis says:

    I would worry a bit about a site like and doing things through them. But there are still ways around the parents to buy your way onto these games. Take the cash to almost any store that sales gift cards other than their own and you’ll see pre-paid credit cards. The kids can get these with no problem & use them as they see fit without their parents knowing what they’re doing.
    The problem will be that these parents will try to go after the companies for allowing things like this from happening. It’s not up to the company to police the kids but the parents. An open relationship where they can come and ask for things after the parents check it out. As it is now parents will either a) ignore what the child is doing or b) buy it without doing any real research on it.
    My advice is don’t jump on the kid when they ask about games or such. Look it up with them there to see if you approve and then explain why. Ask a clerk at the store about the ratings on games and music so you know what they’re asking for. And for gawd’s sake don’t be afraid to ask the child to help you search for it. It shows your human & you care enough for them.

  2. @BHSmith says:

    Agree Frank. The stronger point of the piece, and the blog it stemmed from (link below), is that the companies themselves need to show some ethical business behavior – to do the right thing in the world and not place children in such positions. Have you seen “pay by cash” on any other site? I doubt it.

    WE parents ARE 100% responsible. I believe that as you do, absolute.

    DISCLOSURE: I am the bald git in the video :) I am also very proud to note that my son filled out the form in March, but never mailed it. I found it in late May. He recognized it was wrong. I was not mad at him at all over this. I feel he demonstrated great maturity by letting CBS speak with him about this.

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